Orwellian Peeple

peeple 2An app called Peeple plans to allow everyone to rate each other. The founders’ language reveals the terrifying, Orwellian logic at the center of this bankrupt idea.

Peeple’s idea of rating people is breathtakingly naive. Rating people as drivers or passengers, sure. Rating restaurants and building contractors, that makes sense. But all people are a mix of good and evil. If you’re a good cook and a great listener but tend to trim your nails in public, does that make you a good person or a bad person? What if you’re nice to your girl scout troop and mean to waiters? One person judging another is offensive. The crowd judging people is worse; it’s ominous. (This Washington Post article captures the problems brilliantly.)

The founders of Peeple, Julia Cordray and Nicole McCullough, are curiously indirect in the statement that tops their website. A disjointed, defensive collection of upbeat claptrap uses four mentions of the word “love” to hides the evil nature of their idea. I’ve inserted paragraphs breaks to make it easier to parse and added the commentary in brackets.

An Ode to Courage: Innovators are often put down because people are scared and they don’t understand. We are bold innovators and sending big waves into motion and we will not apologize for that because we love you enough to give you this gift. [To create a great first impression, start with a passive-voice defense against nameless critics, and continue with a promise about how you won’t apologize for accusations you won’t even name. Plus love.]

We know you are amazing, special, and unique individuals and most likely would never shout that from the rooftops. [Who me? I’m unique and special and amazing? Thanks! And actually, Julia and Nicole, I shout about it all time. Is the app only for shy people?]

The people who know you will though…they choose to be around you and in your life and support you even when you don’t like yourself. We have come so far as a society but in a digital world we are becoming so disconnected and lonely. You deserve better and to have more abundance, joy, and real authentic connections. [You seem to know so much about me. You’ve psychoanalyzed me without ever meeting me. Wow. Yes, it’s joy, that I need. Give me the joy! I want the joy!]

You deserve to make better decisions with more information to protect your children and your biggest assets. You have worked so hard to get the reputation you have among the people that know you. As innovators we want to make your life better and have the opportunity to prove how great it feels to be loved by so many in a public space. [Love is great. But what about hate? You’re protecting the “good” people from the “bad” people, but what if somebody says I’m bad?]

We are a positivity app launching in November 2015. [Well, as long as you’re about “positivity” it should all work out alright.]

Whether you love us or our concept or not; we still welcome everyone to explore this online village of love and abundance for all. [OK, now it sounds like we’re joining a cult. But I’d never join a cult that can’t use a semicolon properly.]

This language is Orwellian doublespeak. Hate is Love. Attacks are Safety. Amazing, Special, Unique individuals are the Crowd. Be afraid.

Imagine if these founders were being honest. Then the website would read like this:

There are two kinds of people in this world: good people and bad people. How can you tell the difference? Majority vote! Our app will help keep the good people safe from the bad people. Go ahead and gang up on those bad people (as long as you don’t “bully” them). You can be as nasty as you want (so long as we can’t identify the racism in your posts). But the crowd is all-knowing. And since we have love and positivity in our hearts, it’s all going to work out. You’d really better join, so you can make sure that you don’t end up classified as one of the bad people.

Robert Scoble and Brian Solis agree that the app is nasty. Facebook, Apple, and Google should ban this app from accessing their systems. Let’s hope it dies quickly.

Photo: Peeple site with embellishments by me.

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  1. I read about this last night. This is a horrifying idea for an app. They offer no opt-out (but will consider it if enough people *ask* for it). Hello cyberbullying. It’s a dangerous idea and I can’t believe it has backers.

    1. Imagine LinkedIn where you could describe people’s weaknesses. You could have endorsements for “Cowardly,” “Insensitive,” “Sexist,” “Poor understanding of content” . . . the possibilities are endless!

      1. Also LinkedIn requires the person being endorsed or commented on to ACCEPT the endorsement or comment before it is public.

  2. One of the Monty Python books had a “Good People Guide” in the 1970s. It was a joke — a fantasy of how dreadful the world might become. The nightmare is now a reality!

  3. This is merely a symptom of a larger disease, and “if you can doesn’t mean you ought” isn’t quite the cure.

    The problem is that too many of our systems — government, finance, higher education, social networks — are reliant on failed design. The architects foolishly assume that people are rational, and will only behave in ways we have predicted, and act within boundaries.

    If one cannot fathom how a Peeple system would be utterly abused and used to ruin lives, then one has no business dabbling with fire.

    1. Which is why it’s so appropriate that the crowd is having its way with the errant founders, who are utterly perplexed as to how they can get people to refrain from talking trash about them.